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Professor Amy Vollmer - Professor of Biology and Director of Summer Scholars Program at Swarthmore College, United States

Swarthmore’s Honors Program is unique in two ways: its focus on deep collaboration between students and faculty, and the student’s examination given by external experts. Students think through ideas together in seminars and pursue a wide range of special projects. At the end of their senior year, honors students take written and oral exams with external examiners who independently evaluate their work. One alumnus described the examination process: “I had the feeling that the broader academic community beyond our professors was reaching out with open arms, welcoming and inviting our participation as colleagues in that community”.

Amy Vollmer will speak about the honors program at Swarthmore and how it benefits faculty, honors students as well as students who are not formally involved in the honors program itself. The distinctive seminar style of learning encourages students to dive deeply into areas of interest in which faculty have demonstrated scholarly expertise. Seeing themselves as members of a community of scholars is one of the distinguishing and transformative elements of the Swarthmore honors experience.













Amy Vollmer completed her B.A. in biochemistry from Rice University and her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Since 1989, she has been a faculty member at Swarthmore College, where she served as Biology Department chair for 5 years. She was the recipient of the Carski Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award from the American Society for Microbiology; she was a 2017-2018 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar. In 2018, she was elected as Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. She has also offered courses in bioethics and adult learning courses about bacteria and viruses. Her research focuses on bacterial stress response and on the gut microbiome in small animals. In her laboratory, she has supervised 90 undergraduate students, 40 of whom conducted their honors theses in Biology or Biochemistry. She has been a departmental advisor for honors students for over 20 years and has served on the Honors Advisory Committee at Swarthmore. She has been elected to serve several terms on the College’s Council on Educational Policy. She has been a leader for curriculum innovation and reform, focusing on supporting diverse students and building student scholars and leaders.

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Swarthmore College’s Honors Program:

Critical engagement, engaged scholarship and community building

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